Homemarriage → José Blanco, preside...

José Blanco, president of A Coruña Convention Bureau: "We are going to beat ourselves up to attract business"

Hotelier, doctor and, now, also president of A Coruña Convention Bureau, an entity created to combine public and private efforts so that the Galician city becomes a reference capital in the organization of congresses and events. José Blanco believes that the pandemic will give rise to a very competitive market and that destinations that once had plenty of fairs and professional meetings will now have to fight over pieces of a much smaller pie. Despite the difficulties, Blanco is sure that the body he chairs will bring a lot of wealth to a city that, as he stresses, has many of the characteristics demanded by the MICE sector.

-How did a doctor like you become president of the Convention Bureau of A Coruña?

-Tourism and medicine are two things that I have been doing in parallel for many years. My family is a family with a tradition of hotels that opened the Hotel Avenida 30 years ago and the Hotel Plaza 20 years ago, both in A Coruña. Due to this family tradition, I have been managing our company for 25 years. At the same time, I work as a cardiologist. They are two things that go hand in hand in my life and I give a lot of dedication and love to both. I arrived at the Convention Bureau as a representative of the A Coruña Hotel Association, which is one of the pillars of the initiative. About three years ago, Rafael Benito, who chaired Hospeco at that time, had already raised the need to activate the marketing of MICE tourism. Unfortunately, Rafael Benito passed away, but the now president of Hospeco, Richard Huerta, has continued with the project and I, who had a personal commitment to Rafael Benito himself, got involved. Hoteliers are not the only protagonists of the project and there is a very good harmony with the other MICE actors in the city. The good nature of the Tourism Consortium, with its manager Lanzada Calatayud at the helm, and of the entire municipal corporation, has been very good for us.

-What challenges do you face in this new adventure?

-The great challenge is to create a solid structure that will last over time and unite the interests of the hoteliers, the Palacio de Congresos (Palexco), the ExpoCoruña fairgrounds and the companies that are involved as organizers of congresses. We want to achieve this goal and do so by promoting the city's tourism in general. The Convention Bureau should serve to boost tourism in A Coruña. In turn, we are going to take advantage of the promotion of the city that was already being done from other areas and from MICE itself. In order to attract congresses, we are going to appoint a managing director, professionalized and with a lot of specific knowledge of the sector, in the coming weeks.

-Any concrete action to achieve this great objective?

-There are several lines of action that have been considered priorities. One of them is to structure, at a local domestic level, a network of ambassadors who act as prescribers, because congresses, in the end, are organized or because a national association is very interested in going to a city for whatever reason or for the revitalization work carried out by the people and entities that are in that city and that promote it as a candidate for the meetings they hold. Some of the main prescribers of congress tourism are in our own city and we have to take advantage of that. This network is something that other destinations already have and we have verified this in our studies prior to the creation of the Convention Bureau. The second project is to create synergies with outstanding companies that we already have in our destination and that, in addition, have a highly appreciated brand image at a national and international level and that other destinations do not have. That can make us different. These companies also have their needs within the destination, because they receive a multitude of visitors from outside who, although they are not strictly congress participants, are outstanding visitors who come to see the facilities or to do business and who wish to have preferential treatment. The Convention Bureau will establish a link between companies and public entities to facilitate more personalized visits. That's a winning bet for both parties.

-Is there already an ambassador in that network that you mention?

José Blanco, President of A Coruña Convention Bureau: «We are going to beat ourselves up to attract business»

-Yes. The network of ambassadors is nourished by commercial work that Palexco, ExpoCoruña and the organizing companies that are within the Convention Bureau have already been carrying out for years. They had already established, for example, direct contact with all the department heads of the CHUAC hospital and with the presidents of the different professional associations. That network that was already configured, obviously, will become part of the Convention Bureau network. The CHUAC, for going to my profession, is a fundamental reference, because it is a very prominent hospital at a national and international level and it has department heads with very intense professional activity. We must not forget that, in addition to professional congresses, the Conventio Bureau also deals with another topic, which is that of fairs and exhibitions. ExpoCoruña has managed that part in a very efficient way for years. All this means that we do not start from scratch. Now it's time to combine all those efforts and increase them. To reward the work of the ambassadors, every year there will be a MICE tourism gala in A Coruña. It is about highlighting the work of those people who have captured congresses or who have helped us promote the city. We will give them the public appreciation they deserve.

-Can you give some names of those prestigious companies that do not exist in other places and that differentiate us from other destinations?

-We will establish agreements with Estrella Galicia, whose Mega museum is a tool that other destinations do not have, with Inditex, with Abanca, with Gadisa and with many others that are standing out. It is true that those that have a more prominent brand presence help us more, because we are going to compete with destinations like Malaga, San Sebastián, Valencia or Barcelona, ​​which are very solid. We are going to a market in which we are going to beat ourselves up for attracting business. All the destinations that up to now were elitist, international and with prices above what was payable, at this time and in the coming years, are going to break their ties and go out on the market to capture what there is. Faced with this situation, we have to be very ingenious and very lively.

-Will the Convention Bureau be able to turn A Coruña into the Galician capital of MICE?

-I think so. The way in which we are organizing ourselves, of course, is different from that of other destinations. The hallmark of the Convention Bureau is that public-private collaboration, which is essential. The private part knows very well what the market is looking for and what its needs are, and the public part provides us with institutional solvency and the possibility of having the resources of public places to be able to offer them to congressmen. It is not a trivial matter that this is not only a matter of the mayor and the local government, but that it has the support of all the municipal political groups.

-Do the characteristics of A Coruña make it a perfect city to host congresses and events?

-Totally. Both Palexco and ExpoCoruña have privileged location characteristics. There is no city where you can leave the conference center and find everything, and that is the case with the Palexco venue. Then we have some shortcomings, such as an airport with limited flight frequencies. Although our airport is not worse than the one in a city like San Sebastián, in fact, it is possibly much better. There are, therefore, defects that our competitors also have. There are similar cities, such as San Sebastián, Bordeaux and Santander, which have managed to create a very solid brand without having all the communication virtues that others may have. Of course, it is true that, for congresses, everything is easier the better the communications.

-The vice president of the Diputación de A Coruña. Xosé Regueira said in an interview with TUR 43 that it would have been better for Galicia to have only one airport in which efforts were concentrated than the three that currently exist. Do you agree?

-I understand that if it were to be modeled from scratch, at the present time and with knowledge of the state of the market, it would be done like this, with a central airport. But here we are not dealing with that and we have three airports with solid investments in each of them. It would seem a bit foolish to lose those resources. The ideal option is that of a single airport, perfect, but what do we do now? We cannot throw everything away and create a troglodyte inversion. What is clear is that for the Coruña native it is extremely convenient to have an airport so close to the city and that, although he cannot go to New York, he can go to Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Seville... We have to get the most out of it. can give to what we already have.

-As an expert in MICE and as a doctor that you are, do you think it was wise or foolhardy to hold an international event with tens of thousands of people like the Fitur fair in person?

-As far as I know, they are going to put all the measurements known today. I think that, at some point, we have to take a step forward and start to open a window in all this misfortune that we are experiencing.

-The question is whether Fitur's window won't be too big.

-What happens is that it will be a very decaffeinated Fitur and the number of people who will go will be very limited. We must also take into account the limitations set by mobility agreements between countries. Not all countries authorize travel to Europe. Regardless of that, it is a year in which the amount of real business that may be in Fitur will be very low. Fitur, although they do not sell it as an experiment, will itself be an experiment. We all have the image of Fitur as a tremendous agglomeration, but I understand that this is not going to happen. If it did happen, it would be wildly irresponsible. Of the operators in A Coruña, for example, very few are going to go. The Convention Bureau will be there, although within the A Coruña Tourism representation. Perhaps the most reasonable thing would have been to put Fitur in September or October, when herd immunity is higher. What happens is that if that were done, it would practically be at Fitur 2022, since the fair is traditionally held in January.

-You have traveled a lot, which trip do you remember as the most special?

-The one I remember the most is the one that, when I was still a child, I went to Rio de Janeiro with my parents. My parents were emigrants in Brazil and they got married there. We still have family and, above all, many friends in that country. The second one that I remember the most is my honeymoon, which was in Granada. Fortunately, I have been able to travel to many interesting destinations and I have enjoyed and learned from all of them.

-What trip do you have pending?

-Well, the truth is that it is a very close trip. There are some regions of Spain that I know very little about and that I would love to visit, such as Extremadura. I like the western world more and not so much adventure tourism. Outside of Spain, I would like to visit Türkiye.

-A destination Turkey that, precisely, is halfway between East and West.

-That's probably why I find it interesting.



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